The Charlotte Checkers had a roller coaster week that was wrapped up by their worst loss of the season to Belleville on Tuesday. This didn’t sit well with Checkers head coach Mike Vellucci:
Vellucci on the team’s effort tonight: “It was embarassing in front of our home crowd. Absolutely no excuses. Not one guy was good tonight.”— #WhyNot? (@LankyLape) November 21, 2018
Vellucci on teams effort in front of Nedeljkovic: “He played fine...It has nothing to do with Ned. That game could have been 10-0 in the first period.”— #WhyNot? (@LankyLape) November 21, 2018
The team remains the best of the best but Vellucci sees room for improvement. He was unhappy with his team’s performance and expects more out of them moving forward.
The Checkers started their week by earning a point but falling to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in overtime. Charlotte got on the board first with a goal from Andrew Poturalski. Lehigh Valley took over in the second period, outshooting Charlotte 13-9 while scoring a pair of goals to take the lead. Julien Gauthier scored the equalizer with just a few minutes left in the third period but TJ Brennan secured the win for the Phantoms in the extra frame. Rookie goalie and standout prospect Carter Hart made 35 saves on 37 shots.
Charlotte remained in the state of Pennsylvania and headed to Wilkes-Barre to take on the Penguins. Special teams were a deciding factor in Charlotte’s 2-1 win over the Penguins on Friday. Charlotte killed off all five penalties they committed and both of the Checkers goals came on the power play.
Wilkes Barre-Scranton took the lead at the 1:00 minute mark of the first period but the Checkers defense remained strong and the offense responded in the second period with a goal from Janne Kuokkanen. Poturalski secured the win with a power play tally with less than five minutes to go in the game. Trevor Carrick assisted on both Charlotte goals. Alex Nedeljkovic won the goalie battle against Penguins goalie Tristian Jarry, stopping 27 shots.
Saturday’s game was a thrilling 6-5 win for Charlotte that was full of excitement. Aleksi Saarela started the scoring of the Checkers but things went south...fast. The Penguins scored three unanswered goals on Alex Nedeljkovic and head coach Mike Vellucci decided he had seen enough. Nedeljkovic was yanked for Callum Booth and shortly after the Penguins added another tally to go up 4-1. Charlotte then stormed back, scoring four straight goals, highlighted by Cliff Pu and Dan Renouf’s first goals of the season. Martin Necas scored his second goal since being sent down. Wilkes-Barre forward Anthony Angello scored with less than five minutes remaining to send the game to overtime. Saarela added his second goal of the game to secure the win for Charlotte.
The Checkers returned home to take on the Belleville Senators yesterday. Here’s our coverage:
Thought of the Week
Not to stir up a goaltending controversy, but Alex Nedeljkovic could maybe use a rest on the pine. It wouldn’t be beyond Mike Vellucci sending a message to his young goaltender whose save percentage has dropped. Vellucci sent a message in game 2 of the Penguins series. He did it earlier in the season with forward Saku Maenalanen. The Finnish forward now ranks fifth on the team in scoring with 11 points in 16 games.
Nedeljkovic was on the wrong side of a 5-1 decision on Tuesday night. Vellucci blamed the team in front of him rather than the goaltender and rightfully so. The defense was atrocious in front of him and left him high and dry at points. He was yanked in place for Callum Booth for the second time in two games.
Nedeljkovic’s save percentage has now dropped to .895 on the season. Sound familiar?
Player of the Week
The player of the week is Andrew Poturalski. He’s the energizer bunny of the team and is a leader on the ice outside of injured captain Patrick Brown. His two goals this past weekend came at opportune and needed times for Charlotte.
The Checkers play game two of their series against Belleville tonight at home. Charlotte will get a rest for Thanksgiving and Black Friday and then turn their attention to the Laval Rocket on Saturday and Sunday. Canes Country will not have coverage of Wednesday’s game but will have coverage of both games against the Rocket this weekend.
The Rocket come into Charlotte with some notable names on their roster that may peak the attention of NHL fans. Byron Froese, Hunter Shinkaruk and Michael McCarron have played a majority of the Rocket’s games and each have NHL experience. 2014 7th round pick Jake Evans has impressed for the Rocket this season in hist first year in professional hockey. Evans is coming off an impressive college hockey career with Notre Dame and finished with 46 points in his senior year campaign.
Also of note, Checkers PR extraordinaire Nick Niedzielski shared some injury updates. Spencer Smallman will not play another game for the Checkers this season after undergoing surgery.
some #Checkers injury updates— Nick Niedzielski (@nickski15) November 20, 2018
-Smallman is having ACL surgery and is out for the year
-Didier broke his hand blocking a shot in WBS and is out for "a month or two"
-Brown is day-to-day
Enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday.